Why do golf clubs always pick the worst time to ask members to fork out vast amounts for subs? Steve Carroll and Tom Irwin have a better idea

When do you pay your subs? For some members, the golf club membership fees notices have already gone out and they will be looking at a hefty bill as the New Year is rung in.

But is that the right approach? While using a calendar year for membership is easy to organise, and leaves clubs knowing exactly where they stand throughout the rest of the year, is it best for the golfers who are having to fork out?

This year, not only does that membership demand come straight after Christmas it also comes at a time of rampant inflation and spiralling energy bills as we heat our houses in the darkest depths of winter.

In the From the Clubhouse podcast, my co-host Tom Irwin and I discussed the value of being a golf club member, what it was that keeps us at our clubs, and how the next few months might unfold as the industry prepares for its first real test since the participation boom that arrived during the Covid pandemic.

The focus inevitably turned to the timing of membership subscriptions and we had some strong views…

Tom: We’ve got this thing, which I know is a bugbear of yours, where some clubs renew on January 1…

Steve: I think that’s absolutely insane. Think about the timing of that. It will depend on how a club is set up and the affluence of their members as to whether it matters or not. But I’m not rolling in money and my golf club membership is not an insubstantial amount of money. It will take quite a long time to put together. If I had to pay that on January 1 when I’m about to get crushed by Christmas and cost-of-living, and my subs are going up as well…

Tom: The January 1 renewal date couldn’t come at a worst time of year, could it? In my house, we’ve got two kids’ Christmases, I’ve got a wedding anniversary, a kid’s birthday, all in the last few weeks of December. Then I’ve got to find my golf club subs as well.

golf club membership

Steve: People will say, ‘Well, you should be saving your money up every month.’ But life doesn’t work like that, does it? And now I’ve got to find well over £1,000.

Tom: Life doesn’t work like that. Because it takes planning and because there’s always something to spend your money on rather than save it for a golf club subs or whatever else. But you do find money for things that you want to do. I think that is the biggest problem with the date of the membership renewal. The cash is the cash whatever time of year it comes. I understand you have personal cash flow issues around Christmas, who doesn’t? But if that membership renewal comes in between rounds of the summer knockout, or the week before the Club Championship, or when you’ve just played seven times in a week, you’re much more likely to find the money.

Steve: I cannot understand, apart from tradition, why a golf club would not have a renewal date in the middle of summer. There might be holiday arguments about that but if you can’t keep people at your golf club at the height of the good weather, when the course is looking at its absolute best, and the time when everyone’s enthusiastic – I just think you’ve got a much better chance there then you have in in sending a bill in the middle of December.

Tom: There will be people getting bills when their golf club hasn’t been open for two weeks, people getting bills who’ve forgotten they’re even a member of a golf club because they haven’t played since the clocks went back, and so, for all kinds of reasons, it’s a very strange time to do it. Personally, I think the best time to send out these letters would be as the winning putt is holed at the Masters. That’s when everyone thinks golf starts and when we’re all desperate to get out and play because we’re motivated by the clocks going forwards, the green grass, and the sunshine from Augusta. You’d do anything to get on the golf course at that point. December is a bonkers time to be sending out letters.

Do you pay your golf club membership fees in January? How does it work for you? Let me know with a tweet.

More on golf club membership fees

Steve Carroll

A journalist for 23 years, Steve has been immersed in club golf for almost as long. A former captain and committee member, he has passed the Level 3 Rules of Golf exam with distinction having attended the national Tournament Administrators and Referee's Seminar. He has officiated at a host of high-profile tournaments, including Open Regional Qualifying and the PGA Fourball Championship. A member of NCG's Top 100s panel, Steve has a particular love of links golf and is frantically trying to restore his single-figure handicap.

Handicap: 10.9

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